Italy earned some redemption by qualifying for next year’s European Championship on Monday, while Slovenia and the Czech Republic also secured their spots.
Italy needed just a point against Ukraine to claim second spot in Group C and avoid the dreaded playoffs, and it managed a 0-0 draw in Germany. However, there were some nervy moments for the Azzurri, who rode their luck.
Italy failed to qualify for the past two World Cups after losing playoffs — to Sweden and North Macedonia. After the Azzurri missed out on the 2018 World Cup, they went on to win the following European Championship.
Ukraine would have sneaked past Italy with a win but will now head into the playoffs. England was already assured of top spot in the group and it drew at North Macedonia 1-1 to finish the campaign unbeaten.
A point would also have been enough for Slovenia and the Czech Republic to advance to Euro 2024 and they beat Kazakhstan and Moldova respectively to end their opponents’ hopes of qualifying automatically for a first major international tournament.
Kazakhstan still has a chance via the playoffs.
Ukraine was angered by a decision not to give a penalty in stoppage time for what seemed like a trip on Mykhailo Mudryk by Bryan Cristante.
Federico Chiesa, Giovanni di Lorenzo and Davide Frattesi all missed excellent chances in the first half for Italy, for which goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma charged down a shot by Mudryk to stop Ukraine taking the lead. His own misjudgement off a long throw gave Mudryk the chance.
It was the first time Italy failed to score in a European Championship qualifier in more than 13 years.
The match took place at the stadium of Bundesliga leader Bayer Leverkusen because Ukraine cannot play international games at home for security reasons during the military invasion by Russia. Russia was banned from Euro 2024 qualifying.
Slovenia will play in the European Championship for the first time in nearly a quarter century.
A late goal from Benjamin Verbič saw Slovenia beat Kazakhstan 2-1 and qualify for the tournament for the first time since Euro 2000.
Denmark was already guaranteed to finish top of Group H and it lost away to Northern Ireland 2-0.
Pyry Soiri scored twice to help third-placed Finland win in San Marino 2-1.
Not content with qualifying for only its second major tournament, Albania ensured it did so as Group E winner after drawing with the Faeroe Islands 0-0.
That saw Albania finish above the Czech Republic thanks to a superior head-to-head record.
The Czechs beat 10-man Moldova 3-0 to seal second spot in the group.
© Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.